The first thing I do when I get home from school is
collapse on to my bed and turn on my laptop. This
happens every single day. If I’m not at school, you can
guarantee that my laptop will be somewhere within a
two-metre radius of my heart. My laptop is my soulmate.
Over the past few months, I’ve come to realise that I’m
far more of a blog than an actual person. I don’t know
when this blogging thing started, and I don’t know when
or why I signed up to this website, but I can’t seem to
remember what I did before and I don’t know what I’d do
if I deleted it. I severely regret starting this blog, I really
do. It’s pretty embarrassing. But it’s the only place where
I ever find people who are sort of like me. People talk
about themselves here in ways that people don’t in real life.
If I delete it, I think I’ll probably be completely alone.
I don’t blog to get more followers or whatever. I’m
not Evelyn. It’s just that it’s not socially acceptable to say
depressing stuff out loud in the real world because people
think that you’re attention-seeking. I hate that. So what
I’m saying is that it’s nice to be able to say whatever I
want. Even if it is only on the Internet.
After waiting a hundred billion years for my Internet
to load, I spend a good while on my blog. There are a
couple of cheesy, anonymous messages – a few of my
followers get all worked up about some of the pathetic
stuff I post. Then I check Facebook. Two notifications
– Lucas and Michael have sent friend requests. I accept
both. Then I check my email. No emails.
And then I check the Solitaire blog again.
It’s still got the photo of Kent looking hilariously passive,
but apart from that the only addition to the blog is the
title. It now reads:
Solitaire: Patience Kills.
I don’t know what these Solitaire people are trying to do,
but ‘Patience Kills’ is the stupidest imitation of some James
Bond film title that I have ever heard. It sounds like an
online betting website.
I take the SOLITAIRE.CO.UK Post-it out of my
pocket and place it precisely in the centre of the only
empty wall in my room.
I think about what happened today with Lucas Ryan and,
for a brief moment, I feel kind of hopeful again. I don’t know.
Whatever. I don’t know why I bothered with this. I don’t
even know why I followed those Post-its into that computer
room. I don’t know why I do anything, for God’s sake.
Eventually, I find the will to get up and plod downstairs
to get a drink. Mum’s in the kitchen on the computer.
She’s very much like me, if you think about it. She’s in
love with Microsoft Excel the way I’m in love with Google
Chrome. She asks me how my day was, but I just shrug
and say that it was fine, because I’m fairly sure that she
doesn’t care what my answer is.
It’s because we’re so similar that we stopped talking to
each other so much. When we do talk, we either struggle
to find things to say or we just get angry, so apparently
we’ve reached a mutual agreement that there’s really no
point trying any more. I’m not too bothered. My dad’s
quite chatty, even if everything he says is extraordinarily
irrelevant to my life, and I’ve still got Charlie.
The house phone rings.
“Get that, would you?” says Mum.
I hate the phone. It’s the worst invention in the history
of the world because, if you don’t talk, nothing happens.
You can’t get by with simply listening and nodding your
head in all the right places. You have to talk. You have
no option. It takes away my freedom of non-speech.
I pick it up anyway, because I’m not a horrible daughter.
“Hello?” I say.
“Tori. It’s me.” It’s Becky. “Why the hell are you
answering the phone?”
“I decided to rethink my attitude towards life and
become an entirely different person.”
“Why are you calling me? You never call me.”
“Dude, this is absolutely too important to text.”
There’s a pause. I expect her to continue, but she seems
to be waiting for me to speak.
Becky has called about her almost-boyfriend, Jack.
She does this to me very often. Not call me, I mean.
Ramble at me about her various almost-boyfriends.
While Becky is talking, I put Mms and Yeahs and Oh
my Gods where they need to be. Her voice fades a little
as I drift away and picture myself as her. As a lovely,
happy, hilarious girl who gets invited to at least two
parties a week and can start up a conversation within two
seconds. I picture myself entering a party. Throbbing
music, everyone with a bottle in their hand – somehow,
there’s a crowd around me. I’m laughing, I’m the centre
of attention. Eyes light up in admiration as I tell another
of my hysterically embarrassing stories, perhaps a drunk
story, or an ex-boyfriend story, or simply a time that I did
something remarkable, and everyone wonders how I
manage to have such an eccentric, adventurous, carefree
adolescence. Everyone hugs me. Everyone wants to know
what I’ve been up to. When I dance, people dance; when
I sit down, ready to tell secrets, people form a circle; when
I leave, the party fades away and dies, like a forgotten dream.
“—you can guess what I’m talking about,” she says.
I really can’t.
“A few weeks ago – God, I should have told you this
– we had sex.”
I sort of freeze up because this takes me by surprise.
Then I realise that this has been coming for a long time.
I’d always kind of respected Becky for being a virgin,
which is kind of pretentious, if you think about it. I mean,
we’re all at least sixteen now, and Becky’s nearly seventeen,
and it’s fine if you want to have sex, I don’t care, it’s not
a crime. But the fact that we were both virgins – I don’t
know. I guess it made us equal, in a twisted way. And
now here I am. Second place in something else.
“Well—” There is literally nothing I can say about this.
“You’re judging me. You think I’m a slut.”
“I can tell. You’re using your judgementy voice.”
There’s a pause. What do you say to something like
that? Well done? Good job?
She starts explaining how Jack has this friend who would
supposedly be ‘perfect’ for me. I think that is unlikely
unless he’s entirely mute, blind or deaf. Or all three.
Once I get off the phone, I sort of stand there in the
kitchen. Mum’s still clicking away at the computer and I
start to feel, again, like this whole day has been pointless.
An image of Michael Holden appears in my head and
then an image of Lucas Ryan and then an image of the
Solitaire blog. I decide that I need to talk to my brother.
I pour myself some diet lemonade and leave the kitchen.
My brother, Charles Spring, is fifteen years old and a Year
11 at Truham Grammar. In my opinion, he is the nicest
person in the history of the universe and I know that ‘nice’
is kind of a meaningless word, but that’s what makes it so
powerful. It’s very hard to simply be a ‘nice’ person because
there are a lot of things that can get in the way. When he
was little, he refused to throw out any of his possessions
because to him they were all special. Every baby book.
Every outgrown T-shirt. Every useless board game. He kept
them all in sky-high piles in his room because everything
supposedly had some kind of meaning. When I asked about
a particular item, he’d tell me how he found it at the beach,
or how it was a hand-me-down from our nan, or how he
bought it when he was six at London Zoo.
Mum and Dad got rid of most of that rubbish when
he got ill last year – I guess he sort of got obsessed with
it, and he got obsessed with a whole load of other things
too (mainly food and collecting things), and it really started
to tear him apart – but that’s all over now. He’s better,
but he’s still the same kid who thinks everything is special.
That’s the sort of guy Charlie is.
In the living room, it is extremely unclear what Charlie,
his boyfriend Nick and my other brother Oliver are doing.
They’ve got these cardboard boxes, and I mean there’s, like,
fifty of them, piled up all over the room. Oliver, who is seven
years old, appears to be directing the operation as Nick and
Charlie build up the boxes to make some kind of shed-sized
sculpture. The piles of boxes reach the ceiling. Oliver has to
stand on the sofa to be able to oversee the entire structure.
Eventually, Charlie walks round the small cardboard
building and notices me staring in from the doorway.
I blink at him. “Shall I bother asking?”
He gives me this look as if I should know exactly what
is going on. “We’re building a tractor for Oliver.”
I nod. “Of course. Yes. That’s very clear.”
Nick appears. Nicholas Nelson, a Year 12 like me, is
one of those laddish lads who actually is into all those
stereotypical things like rugby and beer and swearing and
all that, but he also has the most successful combination
of name and surname I have ever heard, which makes it
impossible for me to dislike him. I can’t really remember
when Nick and Charlie became Nick-and-Charlie, but
Nick is the only one who visited Charlie when he was
ill so, in my book, he’s definitely all right.
“Tori.” He nods at me very seriously indeed. “Good.
We need more free labour.”
“Tori, can you get the Sellotape?” Oliver calls down,
except he says “thellotape” instead of “Sellotape” because
he recently lost two front teeth.
I pass Oliver the thellotape, then point towards the
boxes and ask Charlie: “Where did you get all of
Charlie just shrugs and walks away saying, “They’re
Oliver’s, not mine.”
So that’s how I end up building a cardboard tractor in
our living room.
When we’re finished, Charlie, Nick and I sit inside it
to admire our work. Oliver goes round the tractor with
a marker pen, drawing on the wheels the mud stains and
the machine guns “in case the cows join the Dark Side”.
It’s sort of peaceful, to be honest. Every box has a big
black arrow printed on it pointing upwards.
Charlie is telling me about his day. He loves telling me
about his day.
“Saunders asked us who our favourite musicians were
and I said Muse and three people asked me if I liked them
because of Twilight. Apparently, no one believes that it is
possible to have an original interest.”
I frown. “I would like to meet a boy who has actually
seen Twilight. Do you not both live in the realm of the
FA Cup and Family Guy?”
Nick sighs. “Tori, you’re generalising again.”
Charlie rolls his head through the air towards him.
“Nicholas, you mainly watch the FA Cup and Family Guy.
Let’s be honest.”
“Sometimes I watch the Six Nations.”
We all chuckle, and then there’s a short, un-awkward
silence, in which I lie down and look up at the cardboard
I start to tell them about today’s prank. And that leads
me to thinking about Lucas and Michael Holden.
“I met Lucas Ryan again today,” I say. I don’t mind
telling this sort of stuff to Nick and Charlie. “He joined
Nick and Charlie blink at the same time.
“Lucas Ryan... as in primary-school Lucas Ryan?”
“Lucas Ryan left Truham?” frowns Nick. “Balls. I was
going to copy off him in our psychology mock.”
I nod to both of them. “It was nice to see him. You
know. Because we can be friends again. I guess. He was
always so nice to me.”
They both nod back. It’s a knowing sort of nod.
“I also met some guy called Michael Holden.”
Nick, who had been in the middle of taking a sip of tea,
chokes into his cup. Charlie grins, widely, and starts to giggle.
“What? Do you know him?”
Nick recovers enough to speak, though still coughs
every few words. “Michael fucking Holden. Shit. He’ll
go down in Truham legend.”
Charlie lowers his head, but keeps his eyes on me. “Don’t
become friends with him. He’s probably insane. Everyone
avoided him at Truham because he’s mentally disturbed.”
Patting Charlie on the knee, Nick says, “Then again,
I made friends with a mental person and that turned out
Charlie snorts and slaps away Nick’s hand.
“Do you remember when he tried to get everyone to
do a flash mob for the Year 11 prank?” says Nick. “And
in the end he just did it by himself on the lunch tables?”
“What about when he gave a speech on the injustice
of authority for his Year 12 prefect speech?” says Charlie.
“Just because he got detention for having that argument
with Mr Yates during his mock exams!” Both he and
Nick laugh heartily.
This confirms my suspicion that Michael Holden is not the
sort of person with whom I would like to be friends. Ever.
Charlie looks up at Nick. “He’s gay, isn’t he? I heard
Nick shrugs. “Well, I heard that he figure skates, so it’s
not entirely impossible.”
“Hm.” Charlie frowns. “I thought we knew all the
They pause and both look at me.
“Look,” says Nick, gesturing sincerely to me with one
hand, “Lucas Ryan’s a cool guy. But there’s something
wrong with Michael Holden. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise
me if he was behind that prank.”
The thing is, I don’t think that Nick is right. I don’t
have any evidence to support this. I’m not even sure why
I think this. Maybe it was something about the way Michael
Holden spoke – like he believed everything he said. Maybe
it was how sad he was when I showed him the empty
Solitaire blog. Or maybe it was something else, something
that doesn’t make sense, like the colours of his eyes, or
his ridiculous side parting, or how he managed to get that
Post-it note into my hand when I can’t even remember
our skin touching. Maybe it’s just because he’s too wrong.
As I’m thinking this, Oliver enters the tractor and sits
down in my lap. I pat him affectionately on the head and
give him what’s left of my diet lemonade because Mum
doesn’t let him drink it.
“I don’t know,” I say. “To be honest, I bet it was just
some twat with a blog.”